Along the lines of the last post, Dancing for Din, Likutei Moharan I:113 of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov presents an idea Rebbe Nachman heard from the Baal Shem Tov:
Before a person is given his final judgment about an issue or an act, the person himself is asked if he concurs with the judgment.
(He bases it on a verse from Pirke Avot 3:16: "...and they exact payment from a person, with his knowledge and without his knowledge...")
Of course, Rebbe Nachman continues, the person is not asked outright and with his awareness. If he knew he was being asked about himself, he obviously would not concur with any kind of harsh din against himself.
He gives the example from Shmuel II:12 of how Natan Hanavi approached David Hamelech with a story that paralleled one of David Hamelech’s actions. When David Hamelech condemned the character representing himself by saying, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this is liable to death. And the ewe lamb he shall repay fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity"—he actually condemned himself.
This is a huge eye-opener because David Hamelech was known for his hitbodedut; the entire Book of Tehillim derived from David Hamelech’s intense communions with Hashem. Certainly, David Hamelech was a master of self-introspection and cheshbon hanefesh.
Yet he missed this one and never even realized it—even upon hearing the parable—until Natan Hanavi told him outright.
All the more so, any of us could be blind to our own faults and misjudgments.
So it follows that when someone behaves wrongly, it could be that the victim had once also behaved wrongly in the same way—albeit perhaps a far less severe way.
For example, if someone smirks at Reuven right in the eye and then makes some remark that cuts him to the bone, he’ll probably feel very angry and hurt. And if his nemesis has made a habit of it, Reuven may be brimming with resentment. Even if Reuven shoots back verbally, the person may still find a way to get at him. Therefore, Reuven may want the "sniper" to suffer for it or have the tongue cut out or be otherwise incapacitated so that he sniper doesn’t hurt Reuven or anyone else again.
Or maybe Reuven just wishes his nemesis would lose the job, ridding Reuven of the abuse.
However, it could be that this is Hashem’s way of asking Reuven if incapacitation or unemployment is the appropriate din for Reuven because Reuven unwittingly committed the same type of sin—even if it may have been much milder and only one time.
So when you ask Hashem to help your nemesis do teshuvah and grant your nemesis a refuat hanefesh (a soul-healing), you are saying that is the din you deserve, too.
It's Not Just a Story
Rebbe Nachman continues:
And the matter is very deep, how they ask each person; because in all the words and stories a person hears, there he will find high and lofty matters. And he needs to be very careful in this: not to complete the din until he halves it or makes it into a third, because it is sakanat nefashot (life-threateningly dangerous).
Sometimes, people hear or read about some circumstance and respond with some variant of the following:
- Those people don’t deserve to have children!
- They should toss her in prison and throw away the key!
- He doesn’t deserve to get married!
- Why did they win the lottery? Others are more deserving!
- Well, what did they expect? What were they thinking? Of course [fill-in-the-blank] happened! That’s just what happens when you [do/say/think whatever the speaker deems “obvious”]!
You may have also noticed that envious, resentful people really do seem to suffer more: poor finances, infertility, accidents, bad health, and so on.
(Needless to say, not all people suffering poor finances, etc., are envious or resentful!)
There are also physiological and psychological reasons for bitter mazal in resentful, envious people, along with other spiritual reasons, but right now, we’re focusing on this one.
Again, WITHOUT justifying or whitewashing truly bad behavior, anyone can respond to any disturbing story by wishing that all involved do teshuvah and receive a refuat hanefesh.
Chana and Nellie
I know someone (let’s call her “Chana”) who gradually let go of a friend (whom we’ll call “Nellie”) who was becoming increasingly toxic. Chana recognized the poor upbringing and unhappy marriage behind Nellie’s bitterness.
Chana also recognized that Nellie’s long-term reliance on Prozac was likely behind the verbal onslaughts, but Chana also understood that being used for target practice helped neither of them.
However, Chana decided to daven for her Nellie, even as she avoided her. At her own admission, Chana didn’t engage in copious daily davening on Nellie’s behalf, but she did take opportunities to plead on her former friend’s behalf. In addition to davening for her former friend’s refuat hanefesh, simchat chaim (life-joy), and nachat from her children, Chana also begged Hashem to completely cure Nellie of a chronic illness plaguing Nellie for years.
“Perhaps if Nellie saw such a miraculous cure,” Chana told Hashem, “maybe that would inspire her to realize that You do love her...and that would inspire her to start improving. Yeah, Hashem, I really think You should just give her a total refuah.”
Now, I don’t know how Nellie’s doing, but Chana—despite being overweight, middle-aged, and living in a highly stressful environment—seems pretty healthy.
Is it because Chana averts a bad health din by basically saying, “No!" to Hashem and the Heavenly Tribunal? Is it because she basically tells them: "People who behave badly do NOT deserve illness—they should only be healthy!”?
I don’t know, but it is food for thought.
It's Not Your First Time Here
Finally, it’s very interesting what the above passage from Likutei Moharan said:
And the matter is very deep…in all the words and stories a person hears, there he will find high and lofty matters.
Even if you are absolutely sure that you didn’t and would never do this-and-such as you are now, can you be equally sure you never did it in another time as someone else?
May we all daven for the right things and may others do the same for us.
I request forgiveness if I have misled, offended, or in any way hurt anyone through this blog. If so, please know it was an oversight and not intentional, and I am very sorry.